The good shepherd who outsources some of the work

CowsA 10 hectare dryland block in mid-Canterbury has allowed Karen Derrick to satisfy her interest in many different types of stock and maintain some rotational grazing, which she feels is beneficial for both the pastures and the stock by reducing the worm burden. The cost of keeping two Clydesdales and a Standardbred are offset by finishing crossbred beef, which are taken from 4 day old calves or purebred Hereford weaned calves purchased after weaning from beef cows in the autumn. A drier than expected autumn limited winter pasture supply but the cattle are now enjoying an over-abundant supply of prairie grass, cocksfoot and plantain with a bit of lucerne and clover coming through to lift feed value and fix nitrogen.

ChickensKaren is a former avid breeder of rare breeds and keeps a multitude of Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Wesummers, Frizzles and Andalusians that keep the extended family supplied with flavoursome eggs, which reflect the diversity of the diet the hens enjoy.

Two years ago, the high price of lamb at the butcher encouraged Karen to rear some orphan lambs as a low cost way to get back into keeping sheep. One wether proved to be too endearing and secured a lifelong spot in the little flock on the basis that he comes when he is called and the rest follow – and he is cheaper to feed than a sheep dog would be. A couple of wether lambs went in the freezer and three crossbred ewes formed the foundation of a breeding flock. An old ram for sale at the stock yards was saved from the works on the basis that his experience would be useful with ewe lambs. Unfortunately his experience did not seem to compensate for his lack of energy and none of the ewes lambed as they turned one.

LambThree Wiltshire ewe lambs and a ram joined the flock last summer and this spring two out of the three Wiltshires had a single lamb. The self-shedding breed do not need to be shorn and presumably wild bird chicks get the benefit of a wool lined nest because the wool they shed seems to keep disappearing.

The Wiltshire ram put his stamp on the crossbreds and this spring two of the crossbred ewes had twins and one had a single fine-boned lamb with their father’s nose and close fleece.

Electric shears and hand clippers are available for do-it-yourself types but after falling off horses once too often, Karen turned to Tony – one of the mobile sheep shearers that service small block owners. With a diet of young green grass and clover, the heavily fleeced ewes were getting a little dirty around the back end and already looked to be seeking out shade on warm days. Tony came with his own board to shear on and a generator to power the clippers – you do not need a sheep shearing shed. Tony used a comb that left the ewes with some fleece and the property has plenty of shelter if the weather turns cold and wet. The ewes had been fed some nuts in a 3-bay shed for a week before the shearing, so Sheepwent into the shed willingly. The 2 year olds were well grown, having not had lambs at a year old and look to be producing plenty of milk but keeping condition. The fleeces were exchanged for a free hoof trim, so the ewes are in good order to produce plenty of milk for their lambs. The opportunity was taken to give the youngest lambs their first vaccination injection whilst they were all in the shed.

More and more contractors are serving the lifestyle sector, so people who are not keen on getting down-and-dirty in their spare time do have the option of enjoying livestock without some of the more skilled work they bring.